Secret Shopper Mary Portas is currently appearing on small screens nationwide, doing good deeds on behalf of consumers everywhere with her undercover exposés and mission to reform shoddy sales practices.
The Queen of Shops has also been doing good deeds on behalf of Mr & Mrs Smiths everywhere, undertaking an anonymous review of Petra Segreta Resort & Spa in Italy with her new Mrs for our forthcoming Italy hotel guide. Well, how else are we to ensure all beds are bouncy, all staff knowledgable and charmingly unsnooty, all views gobsmacking and all chandeliers swing-worthy without official approval from a suitably hard-to-please tastemaker?
Technically, this is the fifth entry in the Smith Travel Blog’s ‘Meet our secret reviewers’ series, in which we reveal the real Misters and Mrs behind our super-stylish team of anonymous hotel spies (so far, the blog has outed Dita Von Teese, Howard Marks, Mourad Mazouz and Immodesty Blaize, but you can browse the full reviewer list here – previous headline acts include Stella McCartney, Roland Mouret, Raymond Blanc…).
Mary Portas is regarded as one of the foremost authority figures in retail. As creative director at one of London’s most respected brand communication agencies, Yellowdoor, Mary is recognised throughout the trade as the ‘Queen of Shops’, following the launch of her BBC2 television series of the same name, now in its fourth series. In 2005, Mary was commissioned to write a weekly column in The Telegraph reviewing the state of the nation’s shops. She has also become the global retail ambassador for Save the Children.
Flying easyJet was our only option to get to Olbia airport, half an hour’s drive away – and easyJet is not always, well, easy. Add to that air traffic control strikes. But never mind all that – one glimpse of the low-slung warm bronze stonework of the traditional stazzi farmhouse buildings and the hotel appears pure perfection set against an azure sky strewn with streaky fluffs of white. A bristling guard of flowering lavender stands to attention as we walk up the steep drive and into reception where we are greeted by tinkling jazz, and the attentive and charming Daniel.
Assigned room 202 (you cannot pre-book specific suites), our impressions are that it’s cool, calm and well-designed, with white walls, timbered ceilings and solid Sardinian furniture. Double doors lead out to a generous veranda and a breathtaking view to a sparkling Costa Smerelda bay. We turn on the television looking for BBC World – it’s Italian Sky. It’s probably for the best, as we’re nudged out into the Mediterranean gardens past olive trees, wild lavenders and prickly pears, to catch the last rays of sun, poolside. The hotel has the effect of making you want to dress elegantly for supper. How lovely is that?
Read the Secret Shopper’s full review of Petra Segreta…